What started as a convoy of truckers protesting Covid-19 mandates has snowballed into a blockade in the Canadian capital and the obstruction of a US-Canadian border crossing.
Some protesters pressured staff at a homeless shelter to give them food, the facility said.
And criminal investigations are underway after the alleged “desecration” of monuments during weekend protests that spilled into Monday.
The protests stemmed from the “Freedom Convoy” of truckers that traveled across Canada for several days before arriving in the capital city of Ottawa on Saturday. The drivers oppose a recent vaccine mandate requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.
Downtown Ottawa remained packed with rigs and cars Monday morning as protesters rallied against Covid-19 mandates and some legislators were set to return to Parliament Hill.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not there. On Monday, Trudeau announced he and two of his three children tested positive for Covid-19.
Trudeau and his family have been quarantining at an undisclosed location, but he had sharp words for those causing turmoil:
“Canadians were shocked and frankly disgusted by the behavior displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital,” Trudeau said Monday.
“I want to be very clear: We are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse at small business workers and steal food from the homeless,” he said. “We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans.”
Shepherds of Good Hope, a homeless shelter and kitchen in Ottawa, said some protesters harassed staff and volunteers for meals.
“While we are not certain of exact numbers, the demands for meals and verbal altercations continued for several hours over the dinner period,” the center tweeted Sunday.
“Trucks were parked in our ambulance drop off zone for nearly 12 hours until they were removed and towed with the support of Ottawa Police Services,” the facility said. “Our staff and volunteers faced significant barriers to get in to work.”
Truckers and protesters clog a border crossing
In western Canada, trucks and cars have been blocking the Coutts border crossing just north of Sweet Grass, Montana, where Interstate 15 is a major commercial artery for US-Canada supply chains.
The critical route is called Highway 4 on the Canadian side.
“Alberta RCMP ask motorists to continue to stay away from Hwy 4 south of #Lethbridge to the #Coutts border crossing,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta tweeted late Sunday.
“Traffic continues to remain immobilized in both the NB and SB directions. At this time, no motor vehicles are able to access the border for entry/re-entry,” the agency said.
Those who damaged monuments ‘should hang their heads in shame’
“Several criminal investigations are underway in relation to the desecration of the National War Memorial/Terry Fox statue, threatening/illegal/intimidating behaviour to police/city workers and other individuals and damage to a city vehicle,” the Ottawa Police Service tweeted Sunday.
Canada’s chief of defense, Gen. Wayne Eyre, said he was “sickened to see protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrate the National War Memorial.”
“Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not this,” Eyre tweeted Saturday. “Those involved should hang their heads in shame.”
A similar denunciation came from the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), a federation of Canadian trucking associations, which already had said a large number protesters in Ottawa appeared to have no connection to the trucking industry.
“The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial are sacred sites for Canadians,” the CTA said in a statement. “The desecration of these sites was a disgusting act and is a dishonour to those soldiers who have given their lives for our country and those Canadian soldiers who continue to fight for our freedom today.”
The CTA called Terry Fox, the late athlete and cancer research activist, a “national hero.” The alleged defacing of Fox’s monument was another insult to “the memory of one of the greatest Canadians in our history,” it said.
James Moore, Canada’s former minister of innovation, science and industry, retweeted a photo showing the statue holding an upside-down Canadian flag and a sign that read “Mandate Freedom.”
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called the display “completely unacceptable,” and said he’d asked for the sign and flag to be taken down.
“This kind of stunt by protesters does not help their cause,” the mayor said.
Police advised people who work in Ottawa’s downtown core to work remotely Monday.
Not over yet
Despite frigid temperatures, photos have shown supporters joining the convoy of truckers on foot or greeting them with Canadian flags on bridges and highway overpasses.
Authorities reported “multiple cases of disruptive, inappropriate and threatening behavior from demonstrators,” and are aware of demonstrators’ intention to stay in place through the week, the Ottawa Police Service said.
The agency estimated the financial costs of policing around the demonstrations was more than $800,000 a day.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong name for the shelter that said it faced harassment of its staff and volunteers. It is Shepherds of Good Hope.
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Keith Allen, Chris Boyette and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.